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State v. Johnson

July 17, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 05-06-1248.

Per curiam.



Submitted March 16, 2009

Before Judges Carchman and Sabatino.

In June 2005, an Atlantic County grand jury indicted defendant Anthony Johnson, charging him with first-degree aggravated sexual assault upon his minor child, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a) (count one), and second-degree endangering the welfare of that child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a) (count two). Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress incriminating statements that he had made to the police at the time of his arrest. The trial court denied the suppression motion, and defendant's statements were consequently admitted against him at trial. The jurors convicted defendant of both counts of the indictment. He was sentenced to an eighteen-year prison term, conditioned upon a nine-year period of parole ineligibility.

Defendant appeals the trial court's denial of his suppression motions and his ensuing convictions. He argues that the trial court misapplied governing principles of law under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed. 2d 694 (1966), particularly as those principles have been construed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in State v. Nyhammer, 197 N.J. 383 (2009) and State v. A.G.D., 178 N.J. 56 (2003). Defendant also contends that his sentence was excessive. We reject defendant's arguments, and therefore affirm his convictions and sentence.


The following salient facts in the record are relevant to our consideration of the issues raised on appeal. We glean those facts from both the pretrial suppression hearings and the testimony at trial.

Defendant is the father of C.T., a son who was born in May 1988. According to C.T., defendant began sexually molesting him when he was four or five years old. The acts of sexual abuse ceased when C.T. was age eight or nine. As estimated by C.T., he helped defendant masturbate and ejaculate on about thirty occasions, engaged in oral sex with defendant about twenty times, and had anal sex with defendant about ten times.

When C.T. was thirteen or fourteen years old, he told his "Uncle Dennis,"*fn1 who was then living with him and defendant, about the sexual abuse that defendant had previously inflicted upon him. Uncle Dennis promised C.T. that he would not tell anyone what C.T. had confided in him, including C.T.'s father.

Two or three years later, on February 16, 2005, Uncle Dennis accompanied C.T. to the Atlantic City police department. At the time, C.T. was sixteen years old. He apparently had been in an argument with his father earlier that day.

C.T. gave the police a taped formal statement, accusing defendant of the sexual acts that he had previously recounted to his uncle. In addition, Uncle Dennis supplied the police with a formal statement. The two police officers who took the statements were Detective Heidi Clayton and Detective Lee Hendricks.

Following these interviews, Detective Clayton notified the Division of Youth and Family Services and an Assistant Prosecutor of C.T.'s allegations of abuse. The Assistant Prosecutor authorized Clayton to pursue first-degree charges of sexual abuse against defendant. Clayton began preparing an arrest warrant for defendant. The detective was unsure, however, of "exactly what wording to put in" the narrative section of the warrant, so she set the draft aside until she had more information.

Not wanting to put C.T. back in his father's presence, Detective Clayton contacted C.T.'s grandmother, who agreed to look after him at her own residence. Clayton made arrangements for another police officer to drive C.T. to his grandmother's house. That same officer also drove Uncle Dennis back to his apartment.

Later that evening, at about 9:00 p.m., Detective Hendricks, Detective Clayton, and two uniformed officers went to defendant's apartment. Uncle Dennis let the police officers inside. They told him "we're here to arrest [your] brother." The officers spotted defendant in his bedroom, sitting on his bed, with the door open. He was dressed in boxer shorts and attached to an oxygen tank. According to Detective Clayton, he was smoking a cigarette.

When defendant first encountered the officers in his bedroom, he stated to them, without prompting, that he "was expecting that [they] were coming." As Detective Clayton recalled it, she replied, "[Y]ou are under arrest. Get dressed because you are going with us." Detective Clayton, a female, then left the bedroom to allow defendant to get dressed, while Detective Hendricks, a male, remained with him.

As defendant was dressing, he began to talk about the allegations that C.T. had made against him, and, as Detective Hendricks recalled it, "give his side of the story." Defendant was speaking loudly enough for Detective Clayton to hear him from outside the bedroom.

At this point, Detective Hendricks interrupted defendant and gave him Miranda warnings. Despite having been given the warnings, which he acknowledged, defendant resumed talking. In the course of doing so, he made ...

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